– A banged-up roster forced Vanderbilt to dress just seven players for its matinee matchup with Tennessee State on Wednesday at Memorial Gymnasium.
For Chelsie Hall
, she knew she had to step up.
"Going into it, I knew I'd have to play a lot of minutes," Hall said. "Coming in, I knew I'd have to take care of the ball and lead the team."
Consider it mission accomplished for Hall, the speedy sophomore who was a huge spark for the Commodores in an 89-63 win over TSU at home. Hall led all scorers and tied a season-high with 23 points, chipping in a career-high 10 assists for the first double-double of her college career. She also chipped in a season-high six rebounds.
In truth, Hall has been a productive presence for Vanderbilt ever since she first stepped on the floor as a freshman last season. But in her performance against Tennessee State, Hall put her unique create-your-own-shot style on display, a skillset that makes her an invaluable presence for the Commodores going forward.
"For Chelsie, the fortunate and unfortunate thing for her is we've always had to rely on her being a playmaker," Vanderbilt head coach Stephanie White
said. "She's really, truly been the only playmaker that we've had."
Hall wasted no time finding the bucket on Wednesday. When Vanderbilt held an 18-17 lead after one quarter, the sophomore helped power the Dores to a 26-point second quarter and a 44-30 halftime lead. Hall has 10 points, seven assists and four rebounds at intermission and only added to her total – and Vanderbilt's lead – in the second half.
With 4:10 left in the game, Hall showed off a bit of her freewheeling style. She momentarily lost her dribble outside the 3-point arc, regained possession and drilled a trey as the shot clock expired. The shot gave Vanderbilt a 57-37 lead.
Commodore fans saw flashes of Hall's talent during her freshman campaign last season. The Boca Raton, Fla. native started all 31 games for the Dores and led the team with 11.9 points per game alongside 3.5 rebounds per game. Hall earned All-SEC Freshman Team honors at season's end.
White said Hall's talent allowed for a quick adjustment to SEC basketball.
"[Hall's skillset] is a good thing is freshman, because you're thrown into the fire, and she was ready to handle it," White said. "This year, we've challenged her more in a leadership role and being more vocal. Because she can do it and her teammates want and need that from her. As a freshman, you don't want her to think about everything. We let her play through lot of mistakes. As a sophomore, we're asking her to think through things more."
Hall's performance against Tennessee State was part of a team-wide effort. She led four players in double-figures and kept the offense moving with her 10 assists. White praised Hall's leadership as fuel for Vanderbilt's offense, the kind of recipe that could work wonders for the Dores in SEC play.
That's Hall's goal as the Commodores look to build nonconference momentum ahead of the conference schedule. As a freshman, Hall could survive as a silent assassin with the ball in hand. Now the sophomore is a leader on and off the floor, a responsibility that remains on her mind each day.
"The team has really pushed me into being that vocal leader," she said. "I knew I had to focus on being that vocal leader and do whatever I needed to do for us to get the win."
Zac Ellis is the Writer and Digital Media Editor for Vanderbilt Athletics.